"Are you Aunt Jenna's boyfriend?"  A precocious young girl with dark brown bangs sits on a booster seat and manages to cripple me to my knees with every flick of the crayon folded in her meaty fist.  "You're skinny.  You have a dog?  You have a mommy?"

If I have learned one thing about the Lawson family, it's that they are excellent at procreating.  James, their oldest brother, has a little bald baby and a wife who looks like she's plotting my murder from beneath her shiny wave of auburn hair; Jeremy, the middle boy, looks as if the world is his private joke and his wife is his servant.  She's pregnant, because apparently, in this family, it's a shame if you don't at least have one on the way.  She's slight and scared and looks at him as if she worships the ground he walks on.  Jairus, the next one that Jenna's obsessed with, has another redheaded wife.  Their dark haired girl is the one interrogating me about her Aunt Jenna, and two gurgling babies with carrot tops are perched on their mom's lap and are making me sick to my stomach.   How anyone trusts themselves with raising a human being, I will never know.  I would love to have children if they weren't so terrifying.  

Jenna looks so natural with the children, always with a baby on her knee.  When I see her like this, I can feel every rumor about her imprinted on other peoples' skin seared onto my flesh.

"John's just my friend, baby girl."  Jenna pulled a french fry apart for the toddler, handing it to her in the hand not occupied with scribbling all over my menu.

The girl giggled as if Jenna was the funniest person in the entire world.  "Baby girl," she echoed, looking back up at her father.  "Baby girl."

I'm filled with the oddest type of dread--I can't tell if I want to be completely enveloped in their family or if it's safer to just stay on the outside where I'm safe.


Jenna flies through the door and jumps on the hotel bed so hard that she bounces twice. 

"There is no freaking way that I am letting them in to see Josephine," Jenna spits with her hands after she's sat up.  I didn't know she could manage to make bunching her crazy curls into a messy bun infuriating.

"I really feel like you could talk if you wanted to.  You make annoying noises all the time."  I know that she's exhausted when she can't even make a sarcastic retort to that.  Her face twists.   She seemed so happy with her brothers, her nieces, and her nephews.  I don't know what this sudden change in her is.

"Do you want to go swimming?"  She sits up and asks suddenly.  I reach over from the other made bed and flick a paper napkin ring piece out of her hair that they must have put there.  Who knew that Jenna's hair would become a junkyard.

I respond with, "That was random.  I kind of wanted to go see Jo again, actually..."  Jenna stands up to go rifle through her closet anyway. 

"It's eight.  Josephine will be sleeping, and the best thing we've done this entire time is getting shooed out of a stupid café for being blank.  Come on."  She grabs some stuff and trots into the bathroom without even waiting to see if I'm actually going to change and go down with her.

I don't know what makes me decide to do it, but I slip into the closet and pull on my swim trunks anyway.  Maybe it's because she's right when she says that we never do anything fun.  When I slip out of the closet, Jenna is already standing there in a purple cover-up.  She doesn't even try to hide her unabashed way of checking me out.  I wasn't really sure how much all of that frantic exercise in the evening had helped, but judging from Jenna's face, it had.  

"Hey, you don't have to avert your eyes.  Keep right on staring," I snap sarcastically, heading right for the door and scooping a damp t-shirt up and pulling it over my head.

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